The Sydney Thunder have arrived in Canberra to start their three-and-a-half week stint in the capital, where coach Shane Bond believes Manuka Oval will play a key role in igniting their Big Bash title quest.
Bond and the majority of his playing squad took a bus journey from Sydney late on Friday afternoon, and will spend three days in a hard training lockdown before assuming more relaxed BBL bubble conditions ahead of their season opener next Saturday against the Melbourne Stars.
Canberra's adopted Big Bash side come into the season fresh from a nail-biting three-wicket practice match win of the cross-town Sydney Sixers.
They'll play their first five matches at Manuka Oval, and conclude their regular season with five fixtures in Sydney. In between is a two-game stint in Queensland, and two matches in Perth.
"The boys really like coming down to Canberra but to be able to unpack your bags for three-and-a-half weeks, get used to the town, play on a great cricket ground, a great wicket, for us it's a really good start to the tournament," Bond said.
"It's awesome plus we're of the advantage that Canberra's one of our home grounds too so we're going to get the local support. We're very lucky with that, everyone's really looking forward to it."
Bond is in his third season as coach of the Thunder, and the franchise has made huge strides since the former New Zealand fast bowler's appointment in 2018.
His first season netted six wins and a sixth-placed finish, while last year the Thunder's campaign ended one game short of the decider.
Further improvement is expected this summer after a huge offseason of recruitment, which has landed Queensland all rounder Ben Cutting, English wicketkeeper Sam Billings and New Zealand speed machine Adam Milne.
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"We're not really affected by rep duty at all so we'll have that continuity going through the course of the summer," Bond said.
"We thought that was important last year and at the back end of the year that came good for us so I'm hoping it'll do the same again.
"It was really hard to put the squad together over the course of the winter because you were guessing who you might lose to rep cricket, you didn't know whether you'd be in a hard lockdown.
"We've got some really exciting young talent like Tanveer Sangha and Ollie Davies, those sorts of players come into the squad at a good time. We've got some real hardened pros, Chris Tremain, Uzzie [Usman Khawaja], the three overseas players - it's a real nice mix."